5 elements of a winning employee onboarding program

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5 mins, 24 secs read time

You put a lot of time and effort into managing candidate experience. You think about how to communicate with candidates during their application process, how to streamline phone and on-site interviews, and how to collect feedback so that you can improve any areas where you let them down.

But let’s say that you’ve successfully navigated all those steps and made an offer. Time to pop some bubbly and celebrate for a moment!

Okay, now that you’re done celebrating, what comes next?

Just as you dedicated significant time and resources to creating a stellar candidate experience, you’ll want to consider how to create the best possible new hire experience.

New hire onboarding is complex (so complex, in fact, that we wrote an entire eBook about it!), but we’ve boiled it down to a handful of essential elements.

So how do you create an onboarding experience that makes your new hires feel welcomed, excited, and ready to start contributing to your company? Read on for our 5 tips!

1. Start with pre-boarding

Forward-thinking companies like Airbnb and SendGrid are realizing that onboarding shouldn’t start on an employee’s first day. You can take care of some tasks ahead of time during a “pre-boarding” process so that a new hire’s first day is as efficient—and fun!—as possible.

Here are a few of the tasks that you can incorporate into your pre-boarding program:

  • Have new hires fill out paperwork like your NDA, inventions agreement, and tax forms.

  • Provide new hires with a detailed schedule of their first day (including directions to the office, names of the people they’ll be meeting with, and what they should plan to do for lunch).

  • Share a copy of your employee handbook and guide to benefits.

  • Allow new hires to request their preferred desk/computer/equipment setup.

  • Give new hires access to your company intranet or onboarding software like Greenhouse Onboarding so they can familiarize themselves with their coworkers.

  • Share contact information for HR staff or employees who can address their questions prior to their start date.

2. Take it beyond HR

It’s true that your new hires have a lot of business to take care of with your HR or People Operations team, but their onboarding experience should involve people from throughout the company.

For starters, your new hire’s direct manager and teammates can handle a lot of the tasks related to how things are done in their department. They’ll be the ones to share processes and workflows as well as expectations around performance. Your HR team doesn’t necessarily need to tell direct managers exactly how to onboard new team members, but it’s a good idea to check in and make sure they have some processes in place to give a consistent experience to those who join their team.

It’s also a great idea to have people from other teams introduce themselves—and the work their teams are doing—to new employees. This helps new hires learn about how different departments collaborate, increases the number of people they recognize around the office, and makes it a little easier for them to know who to approach when they have a question or issue that’s best addressed outside their department.

But don’t forget that starting at a new company isn’t just about work—it also involves navigating a new work space and environment. Once you’ve been somewhere for a while, you know how to work the coffee machine and where all the best lunch spots are, but it takes some time to get there. You can help new hires expedite this process by pairing them with a company buddy. The buddy will take the new hire out for lunch during their first week and serve as a point person for any questions the new hire has about company culture or policies.

3. Invest in employees’ long-term development

When you have a new hire starting, the temptation can be to get them working as soon as possible. But this strategy can be a little short-sighted. Taking the time to create an employee development plan can help your employees visualize their future at your company and demonstrate that you’re committed to their long-term success.

Your employee development plan can be as simple as a list of goals that demand increasing levels of responsibility. For example:

Month 1 Goal: Research industry and present to manager.

Month 2 Goal: Develop competence in specific software.

Month 3 Goal: Participate in a project with members from at least two departments.

Or, if you prefer, you can be a little more elaborate and design a plan that incorporates a few different types of goals. Some things to consider are goals related to the new hire’s job, a particular project they’ll be working on, professional development, and performance.

4. Make it fun!

You can get as creative as you’d like when you assign tasks to new hires.

Here are just a few of the ways cutting-edge employers are making onboarding interactive and fun:

  • Offer a lending library of books that have influenced the company’s founders.

  • Send new hires on a scavenger hunt around the office. Bonus points if you design it to encourage interaction with people in different departments!

  • Hold a Q&A with a class of new hires and a co-founder to address all questions about the company’s history, vision, and direction.

  • Decorate the new hire’s desk with balloons, a welcome sign, their favorite breakfast food, or all three!

  • Throw a “New Hires Celebration” party for all employees who have been at the company for 100 days or fewer.

5. Don't forget feedback

A comprehensive onboarding program shouldn’t center on a one-way stream of information. It’s also important to give new hires the chance to share their feedback about the company in general and the onboarding process specifically.

One easy way to get feedback is to put a new hire survey in place. You can send it at the end of the first week, first month, or any other time when you think new hires might have something to say.

Another way to get feedback is to ask new hires to present to the People Team or other stakeholders on how they’d improve the onboarding process. You get great feedback and you also show your new hires that their voices are heard and their opinions are valued—it’s a win-win!

As you can see, when it comes to new hire onboarding, there’s a lot to cover! We’ve introduced some of the basics in this post, but if you’d like to dive deeper and get access to timelines and checklists to help you with each step of onboarding, be sure to download our “New hire onboarding guide.”

Get the guide
Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.